Fr. Dennis Nowinski, 77, remembered for servant's heart, good sense of humor

Fr. Dennis "Denny" Nowinski, a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit for 51 years who ministered in parishes and as a hospital chaplain, died March 1 at the age of 77. (Archdiocese of Detroit file photo)

ROSEVILLE — Known as a “people person” and for his good humor and tireless service, Fr. Dennis “Denny” Nowinski will be greatly missed by the countless people he encountered over his decades as a pastor and chaplain across the Archdiocese of Detroit.

Fr. Nowinski passed away on March 1, at the age of 77.

Fr. Nowinski was born April 22, 1946, in Hamtramck, to Irene and Walter Nowinski. He attended St. Mary’s College in Orchard Lake and St. John Provincial Seminary in Plymouth Township and was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Detroit on Feb. 17, 1973.

His first assignment was as associate pastor of Our Lady Queen of Apostles Parish, Hamtramck (1973-76), and then as associate pastor of St. Clement Parish, Warren (1976-79), before being named pastor of St. Christine Parish in Detroit from 1979-80.

Fr. Nowinski also served as pastor of All Saints Parish, Memphis, and St. Francis D’Assisi Parish, Detroit (1984-89), and as parochial vicar at Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish, Grosse Pointe Woods (2001) and Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, Detroit (1980-84).

Fr. Nowinski served one term as vicar of the old Southwest Vicariate from 1985-87.

In his later years, he was a hospital chaplain, administering last rites at several local hospitals, including Botsford General Hospital in Farmington Hills, St. John Macomb Hospital in Warren, St. John Oakland Hospital in Madison Heights, DMC-Harper Hospital in Detroit, and for Martha T Berry Medical Care Facility in Mount Clemens. He also served as chaplain for American House East and West in Roseville and Knights of Columbus Father Kramer Council 2835 in Center Line. He became a senior priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit in 2017.

In retirement, Fr. Nowinski frequently helped out at Holy Innocents-St. Barnabas and St. Angela parishes in Roseville, where he quickly became beloved and well-known by parishioners, Deacon Michael Lang told Detroit Catholic.

For several months, Fr. Nowinski served weekly at Holy Innocents-St. Barnabus following the departure of the parish’s pastor, Deacon Lang explained. He became integrated into parish life; on Sunday, he’d go with parishioners to breakfast following Mass and attend parish outings to Tigers games.

“He was very loved by the parishioners in the short time that we had him,” Deacon Lang said. “It got to a point a couple of years after he was with us that when we had to get a substitute for Mass, parishioners would ask me, ‘Why can’t you get Fr. Denny?’ Truthfully, he was a God-send for us.”

Deacon Lang said Fr. Nowinski loved to crack jokes and tease his friends in good faith.

“He was a real fun individual and had a great sense of humor,” Deacon Lang said. “When I did my first Mass with him and went to him to get my blessing to read the Gospel, he patted me on the head the way comedian Benny Hill did — he did that all the time.

“Before (Pope Francis) was elected, (Fr. Nowinski) was jokingly saying he was going to put his name in for pope,” Deacon Lang added. “He asked me if the popemobile would fit down our center aisle at church.”

Despite having his own health concerns, Fr. Nowinski never seemed to slow down and worked tirelessly, Deacon Lang said. He recalled a time when Fr. Nowinski forgot to silence his phone, and it rang mid-Mass with a call to administer last rites.

“He finished Mass, then out the door he went — he did a lot of traveling around,” Deacon Lang said. “He really took his job very seriously when he was chaplain at the hospital and did last rites for people who were dying, and he always would joke and say, ‘When my day comes, I helped get so many people to heaven that they ought to be at the gate hollering, Denny! Denny!’”

Fr. Nowinski is survived by his brother and sister and many nieces and nephews and great-nieces and nephews. Fr. Nowinski’s funeral Mass took place March 8 at Holy Innocents-St. Barnabas Church, followed by interment at Resurrection Cemetery in Clinton Township.


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